Emergency visas for foreigners lorry drivers sa discuss the fuel crisis will run at Christmas, it appeared, as businesses rejected the move to be no more than “throwing a thimble of water at a bonfire.”
As expected, 5,000 HGV drivers – including 5,500 poultry workers – will be given the right to work in the UK, a move that has been repeatedly rejected by ministers despite warnings of a supply chain crunch.
But the visas will only last until Christmas Eve, prompting immediate criticism that the move will fail to stop scenes of long queues filling stations and fears of festive festivities.
The British Chambers of Commerce said the adjustment was “insufficient” and too short-lived, while the British Retail Consortium It said only supermarkets needed 15,000 extra drivers for the Christmas season and the 5,000 visas would “do little to alleviate the current shortage”.
“Christmas is about more than just food, so to avoid disappointment to millions of households during the celebration we are urging the government to expand this program,” said Andrew Opie, the food director.
The visa scheme, presented as some filling stations are forced to close after running out of fuel, is part of a package that will also do:
• Spend £ 10m on new “skills bootcamps” to train up to 3,000 more HGV drivers.
• Train an additional 1,000 drivers through adult education-funded courses.
• Use Ministry of Defense driving testers to provide thousands of excessive HGV tests over the next 12 weeks.
• Send letters to retired HGV drivers to encourage them to return to the industry.
Grant Shapps, the secretary of transportation, said the initiatives would address what he called this “global crisis”, adding: “This government continues to do everything to help the transportation and food industries fight the shortage of HGV driver.
“After a difficult 18 months, I know how important Christmas is for all of us and that’s why we’re taking these steps at the earliest opportunity to make sure preparations stay on track.”
Ministers were forced to act despite repeated insistence on the move by EU drivers to create an opportunity for wage increases that would allow domestic workers to plug the gap.
The Confederation of British Industry announced “substantial relief” on the U-turn, but criticized the government for its long delay.
“We’ve been calling it for three months. We’ve seen this problem coming and a lot of problems coming, and so it’s a shame that the government needs queues at pumps to move,” director-general Tony Danker said. .
Meanwhile, BP estimates that between 10 and 15 per cent of 1,200-odd filling stations across the UK have run out of one or more fuel marks, with a small number closed completely.
“The EU’s labor supply has been killed without a clear roadmap on how to manage this transition without disruption to services and the supply chain,” said Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the BCC. “Now some action has been taken, but further testing will take time and the low number of visas offered is not enough.
“Although these short -term opportunities will attract the maximum number of people allowed under the scheme, it is not enough to address the scale of the problem that has now formed in our supply chains. This announcement is equivalent to throwing a thimble of water into a fire. “
He added: “Without further action, we now face the real hope of serious damage to our economic recovery, stunted growth as well as another less than merry Christmas for many businesses and their customers. across the country. “